Day 185 of Colourisation Project – November 8
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Today’s story is the sad tale of a Hollywood actress fighting to stay employed by trying to conform to Hollywood’s unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look.
Image issues were around in the early days of Hollywood’s silent era and nothing has really changed. These issues still persist today.
Today’s subject for colourisation, silent screen star, Marie Prevost is a classic example of a woman who had conquered Hollywood only to fall victim to its unrealistic demands which ultimately led to the wretched circumstances of her tragic and early demise.
Born this day, November 8, 1898 Marie Prevost was a Canadian-born film actress and highly sought after leading lady of the silent era making 121 silent and talking pictures during a twenty-year career. She broke into films at the age of 18 and soon became a fixture of the Jazz Age of films at Universal and Warner Bros. Between 1921 to 1928, she was one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses. However with the advent of talkies she struggled to adjust to the new medium.
In 1926 she was affected badly by the death of her mother in an automobile accident and also by the breakdown of her marriage to actor, Kenneth Harlan in 1927. Prevost sought comfort in alcohol and soon began drinking heavily. Suddenly, she was relegated to supporting roles. During the 1930s, she found herself working in bit parts in films. Prevost also began struggling with her weight. She was binging and crash dieting at an alarming rate. To make matters worse she was running out of money, thus becoming more reliant on alcohol. Prevost was on a downward spiral, starving herself stay in movies.
A star just a decade earlier, now in her mid-thirties, Prevost was facing Hollywood mortality. The enormous pressure on women to conform to ideals of beauty and the fight against ageism in Hollywood has destroyed many lives and Prevost’s was one of Hollywood’s first casualties.
It was not until Prevost’s neighbors called police to complain about incessant barking coming from her apartment, that Prevost’s death was discovered. Inside Police found Prevost’s body on her bed.
Her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, (January 24, 1937), describes the sad and shocking scene confronting police officers:
“Whining at the-bedside was her pet dachshund, Maxie, and teeth marks on the actress’ body indicated animal had tugged at his mistress in ant attempt to arouse her.”
Her autopsy showed that Prevost has died on January 21, 1937 of cardiac arrest as a result of alcoholism. She was only 38.
Prevost died a pauper, however some good came out of her death. Her destitution prompted Hollywood to form the Motion Picture Relief Fund and the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital to care for their own in old age and in poor health.
Prevost has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard.